New guidance for prosecutors on offences committed by children in residential care could cut the number of young people in custody, it was predicted this week.
The Crown Prosecution Service guidance was drawn up after concerns that children in residential care were being fast-tracked into the criminal justice system for minor offences because staff were unable to manage their behaviour.
It warns against prosecution, reprimand or final warning except when “clearly required by the public interest” and suggests that other measures, including restorative justice, could be sufficient.
It also urges prosecutors to recognise that “unacceptable” or challenging behaviour could be a result of illness, bullying or disabilities, including autism.
John Fassenfelt, chair of the Magistrates’ Association’s youth courts committee, said: “This guidance could lead to significantly fewer cases coming to court and ending in custody.”
Jon Banwell, manager of Aldine House Secure Children’s Centre in Sheffield, said: “Too often, children’s homes have been left to manage difficult behaviour without senior management or central government guidance.”
● Guidance from http://cps.gov.uk